Among Halvorssen’s main PR megaphones is Buzzfeed, whose correspondent Rosie Gray flew to Oslo in 2013 to write a fawning profile of him and his Oslo Freedom Forum.
(Gray has not disclosed whether Halvorssen covered her travel expenses or provided her with resources like food and lodging).
Michael Moynihan, another writer who was flown to Oslo to participate in Halvorssen’s confab, published an editorial in the Daily Beast this week praising “the handsome, telegenic, and Harvard-trained Leopoldo Lopez” and slamming President Nicolas Maduro as “Mussolini-on-the-piazza.” The Daily Beast followed up with a translated version of the dramatic and carefully staged speech Lopez delivered before he turned himself in to Venezuelan authorities, which Halvorssen promptly promoted on Twitter.
Besides being the son of a CIA asset who channeled money from Venezuelan oligarchs to the Nicaraguan Contras, Halvorssen happens to be Lopez’s first cousin — Leopoldo is the son of Thor’s oil executive aunt.
Through his human rights apparatus, he has played a critical role in marketing Lopez to an international audience.
In 2009, Halvorssen showcased Lopez at his Oslo Freedom Forum, presenting him beside figures like Elie Wiesel and Vaclav Havel as a “human rights leader.” I wrote about the unusual spectacle for Electronic Intifada: In 2010, Halvorssen invited his first cousin, the Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, to speak at the Oslo Freedom Forum.
“This law takes away performance-based compensation exception,” Pinheiro said.
It is hard to argue that many of those involved in anti-government protests in Venezuela don’t have legitimate grievances — widespread insecurity and media repression cannot be ignored — or that the government’s charges against opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, including “terrorism,” have been filed with sufficient substantiation.
Lopez, the Harvard-educated mayor of a wealthy district in Caracas, was among the politicians who signed as witnesses in the new government after Chavez was briefly ousted in the failed US-backed coup in 2002.
Lopez is the son of a former oil executive — Halvorssen’s aunt — who allegedly funnelled profits from the state-run oil company into his new political party, leading to corruption charges that placed his political ambitions in peril, as the Associated Press reported in February (“Leopoldo Lopez, Opponent Of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Faces Corruption Charges In Venezuela”).
Brian Pinheiro, a compensation and benefits lawyer at Ballard Spahr, said the proposal jumped off the page.
His reaction was, “Wow, they are really trying to hammer the executives that work for these tax exempt organizations.” The proposal would affect not just university presidents like Amy Gutmann of the University of Pennsylvania, whose pay totaled .5 million in 2015, and high-paid physicians at Penn, Jefferson, and elsewhere, but also coaches like Penn State football coach James Franklin, who has a contract paying him .74 million a year until at least 2022, according to the Daily Collegian.
He stirred his audience with lofty rhetoric about peace, democracy and the coming wave of freedom, casting the Venezuelan opposition as “David against Goliath.” “We know that we will overcome,” Lopez proclaimed, “we know that change will come in Venezuela.” Noting that Lopez’s appearance at the Oslo Freedom Forum was covered far more heavily in Venezuelan media than in Oslo, where it was virtually ignored, accused Halvorssen of using his human rights confab for the purpose of “whitewashing Leopoldo Lopez …